The refrigerator may seem mundane nowadays, but it is one of the wonders of twentieth-century science--lifesaver, food preserver, social liberator. Part historical narrative, part scientific decoder, Chilled looks at early efforts to harness the cold at the ice pits of Persia (Iranians still call their fridges the "ice pit") and ice harvests on the Regents Canal.Read more...
The refrigerator may seem mundane nowadays, but it is one of the wonders of twentieth-century science--lifesaver, food preserver, social liberator. Part historical narrative, part scientific decoder, Chilled looks at early efforts to harness the cold at the ice pits of Persia (Iranians still call their fridges the "ice pit") and ice harvests on the Regents Canal. As people learned more about what cold actually was, scientists invented machines for producing it on demand. The discovery of refrigeration and its applications features a cast of characters that includes the Ice King of Boston, Galileo, Francis Bacon, an expert on gnomes, a magician who chilled a cathedral, a Renaissance duke addicted to iced eggnog, and a Bavarian nobleman from New England.
Refrigeration technology has been crucial in some of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the last one hundred years, from the discovery of superconductors to the search for the Higgs boson. Refrigeration is needed to make soap, store penicillin, and without it, in vitro fertilization would be impossible. And the fridge will still be pulling the strings behind the scenes as teleporters and intelligent-computer brains turn our science-fiction vision of the future into fact.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-06-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Jackson (Physics: An Illustrated History of the Foundations of Science) packs an amazing amount of information into this fascinating history of humanity’s ongoing quest for refrigeration. While readers might guess that humans’ first efforts to preserve food through cold occurred with the 19th-century icebox or the 20th-century refrigerator, that’s woefully incorrect. Jackson describes elaborate efforts to preserve ice and use it as a food preservative in ancient Mesopotamia and Persia, as early as 1775 BCE. He works his way forward through the centuries, chronicling first a growing understanding of just what “cold” actually is, and then the ways and means that individuals began to profit from it. Jackson makes it clear that “it’s the fridge that makes the modern city” and that refrigeration makes possible everything from nitrogen fertilizers to the bizarre Bose-Einstein condensate, a fifth state of matter only possible at billionths of a degree above absolute zero. He also looks to the future for further advances that frigidity may make possible, noting that development of a quantum computer will almost certainly depend on scientists’ ability to wield cold and seeing the Bose-Einstein condensate as a potential component of teleportation engineering. Jackson magnificently shows that science is “cool.” (Sept.)